Elite players with damaged reputations may sink in draft to Ravens

Ravens could take a chance on certain players

  • LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu returns a punt in the 2011 SEC championship game against Georgia.
LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu returns a punt in the 2011 SEC… (Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE,…)
February 25, 2013|By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun

Troubled former Louisiana State star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu is painfully aware of just how much he's damage he's inflicted on his reputation with potential NFL employers, and how his many transgressions with drugs have cost him financially.

Mathieu's dollar-value estimate on what he's done to his draft stock? Millions of dollars.

Along with several other NFL draft prospects hoping to rebuild their stock after off-field issues, Mathieu is hoping he'll be given a chance to redeem himself at the professional level after positive drug tests ended his college career.

And there's a twist to taking a risk on players like Mathieu or Ogletree for NFL teams like the Super Bowl champion Ravens, who have been repeatedly mentioned as a potential landing spot for Ogletree should his problems cause him to slide to their 32nd overall pick of the first round.

Teams like the Ravens may have the opportunity to give players like Mathieu a chance. Should teams be scared off by a player's' troubles, the prospect could drop in the draft. Akin to investing in a depressed stock, an elite talent can plummet to a point where their value makes it worthwhile to take a calculated gamble.

The Ravens have been mentioned as a potential landing spot for Georgia middle linebacker Alec Ogletree, who was arrested in Arizona shortly before the combine and charged with driving under the influence.

The Ravens have drafted players with legal or character issues in the past.

That includes former NFL Defensive Player of the Year outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who was facing a felony aggravated assault charge in Arizona when the Ravens drafted him 10th overall in the first round of the 2003 NFL draft. The case was later dismissed. The Ravens selected Lardarius Webb in the third round four years ago, landing their future shutdown cornerback after he was kicked off the Southern Mississippi football team for violating team rules before transferring to Nicholls State.

At the NFL scouting combine last week in Indianapolis, Mathieu was quickly offered a reminder of the mistrust he's caused when he was woken up at 4 a.m. to take a drug test.

Mathieu was frequently asked about his time at LSU, which ended when he failed multiple drug tests and was kicked out of school. Once a consensus All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist celebrated as the so-called Honey Badger, Mathieu was arrested on Oct. 26 for marijuana possession, but said that's the last time he was involved with any illegal drugs.

“I want them to be able to trust me,” Mathieu said. “I hold myself accountable for everything I’ve done, and in this past year it’s been tough. At the end of the day, I want them to know that I’m a football player. I want to be a great teammate, and I want to be the same leader on the field that I know I can be off the field.

“I’m not totally asking them to trust me right now. What I have asked is for them to give me an opportunity to play the game. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on it, especially without football. It’s really given me a different outlook on life, and it’s just about being the right kind of person.”

Last year, the St. Louis Rams drafted cornerback Janoris Jenkins in the second round after he had several incidents that got him dismissed from Florida's team. Jenkins was arrested three times, including one for a bar fight, and failed at least one drug test. He also fathered four children by three women.

The Rams' faith was rewarded, though, when Jenkins remained out of trouble as a rookie. On the field, he intercepted four passes, returning three for touchdowns and ran back a fumble for another score.

"With every situation where you're thinking about taking a player who's been in trouble, you have to be sure you're getting all the information you need about them to make the decision," said Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage, a former Ravens director of player personnel who was working for the Ravens when Suggs was drafted. "It all comes back to this: Can you trust the guy or is he going to be a headache or an embarrassment to your team and your city? You have to get it right."

Mathieu is regarded as a talented multi-dimensional defensive back with elite return skills. In just 26 games at LSU, Mathieu intercepted four passes, had four returns for touchdowns, 11 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries and 16 tackles for losses.

However, Mathieu is undersized at slightly under 5-foot-9.

Despite Mathieu's history of problems, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock isn't writing him off.

"I like him," Mayock said. "He's a better football player than he is an athlete. He's short and he¿s probably speed-deficient, which is not a good combination, but I think he's a hell of a football player. He's a slot defender, a nickel-type guy with return skills.

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